Beth Shalom Packs Food for Hungry Kids

Beth Shalom Packs Food for Hungry Kids

Ronald and Samra Robbins hope to expand Backpack Buddies to all the students in need at Kingsley Elementary and other schools.

Rabbi Mark Zimmerman and others pack groceries for meal donations at Congregation Beth Shalom on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Rabbi Mark Zimmerman and others pack groceries for meal donations at Congregation Beth Shalom on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

A Dunwoody couple is feeding 50 Kingsley Charter Elementary School students every weekend with the help of volunteers, charitable giving and Congregation Beth Shalom.

After a long career with Ford Motor Co. took their family across the country, Ronald and Samra Robbins settled in Savannah, where they helped grow Backpack Buddies, a program that provides weekend meals, snacks and drinks to elementary school students in need.

The Robbinses’ dedication cultivated Backpack Buddies so that it served 2,000 children in Savannah through 32 churches, synagogues and other organizations.

The native Atlantans moved to Dunwoody in July and kick-started Backpack Buddies at Kingsley, a Title I elementary school, meaning that a high percentage of pupils live in low-income families.

Students qualify for Backpack Buddies at the recommendation of the school counselors and principal. Each student accepts a backpack at the start, and it is filled up each Friday with a weekend’s worth of food.

To receive food again, the child must return the backpack to school counselors.

According to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, one in every four children lives in a food-insecure household, or 23 percent of the state’s population under age 18.

Congregation B’nai Torah member Rose Haber plans to continue volunteering with Backpack Buddies and wants to see the program expand within metro Atlanta.

“The thought of children going hungry is disturbing. Kids are at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak. We have to make sure they have food to grow and learn and contribute to society,” she said.

Ronald and Samra Robbins grew the Backpack Buddies program in Savannah before moving to Dunwoody last year.

Each Wednesday volunteers gather at Beth Shalom to pack groceries.

On Feb. 7, for example, members of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Temple Beth Tikvah, B’nai Torah and Beth Shalom organized 150 meals in less than 30 minutes.

While Ronald Robbins and Rabbi Mark Zimmerman discussed where to store more food and how to maintain health standards, volunteers double-checked the food baskets. The room buzzed with energy.

Jack Haber, who helps weekly, never had time to volunteer before he retired from CNN. Not only is he packing groceries for Backpack Buddies, but he also is dedicated to expanding the program by adding dental care.

“After making calls to Colgate and other manufacturers, you’d be surprised how people will give,” he said.

“Backpack Buddies was an awesome idea that afforded us opportunity to do good works in the community and to help families out in a very meaningful way,” Rabbi Zimmerman said. “It has been such a wonderful feeling to see all the good we can do when we come together and to see so many people getting involved each and every week.”

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